Without a Reason — Finding It: Chapter 24

Every time I ate at Yacarino’s, there were always leftovers. Mamma made two trays from what we couldn’t finish, one for each of us in separate doggie bags. She bid us a safe drive as she escorted us to the door and told me not to make it so long between visits.

When Pam and I settled into my car, she thanked me for dinner. As unusual a first date as it was, for once, something in my life other than wrestling was beginning to make sense. Even if we stayed out a little later than I intended, it had to be okay. Pam seemed to be having fun as well.

Although I had never driven to Tipp City, I’d been near there on several occasions to attend farm equipment auctions with my dad. I knew it was near Troy and somewhere past New Carlisle on State Route 571. Historically it had been called Tippecanoe City but sometime since its name had been officially shortened.

When we left the restaurant, the road I needed to take was about twenty miles to the west of where we were. Still, Pam needed me to confirm I knew where we were going. “I just don’t know roads around here,” she said. “I can give you direction once I know where I am.”

“I’ll get us going in the right direction. How is that?”

“That works.” She picked up the cassette case she’d set aside from earlier and opened it. “I think it’s music time.”

“You’re sure you want to listen to it?”

“I’m eager to hear it.”

“You say that now,” I warned as I inserted the tape into my deck for her and adjusted the volume. “Remember, honest opinion,” I reiterated.

Anxious was really the wrong word to describe what I felt, as the opening arpeggio of the overture commenced. Curious was probably more apt for her state of mind. After all, what could anyone expect from something recording on a shoestring budget except for a completely amateur musical production?

From the few times I’d already listened to the tape, I knew where every mistake was, even the ones we attempted to mask with overdubs or smooth over in some other way with postproduction gimmicks while remixing the final master. My proximity to the work, the intimacy of my knowledge about everything to do with its composition, the rehearsals, and the recording session prevented me from being objective. I could never hear the music as Pam did that night. To her, it was a completely new aural experience. Not even a minute into the experience, she reached across and grabbed my hand. “Who’s playing the piano?”

“That would be me. We overdubbed that. That was recorded in the choir room at school on a baby grand.”

“This is really so cool. To think you are playing this.”

“You like it?”

“Yeah, I’m surprised. It sounds professional.”

One Thane was an outward manifestation of my creativity, my soul bared in a way that perhaps only another artist could understand. It encapsulated a portion of self, served for scrutiny, good or bad.

Only a masochist would allow what was happening to me on my first date with Pam. A relative stranger was now to be my music’s first critic. Still, her words of praise made me giddy as I felt the burning of embarrassment on my cheeks. I could have died at that moment and been okay with the way things happened in my life.

She heard the entire recording from start to finish as it was intended. Months in the creation, mere days since its recording, and even more recently mastered, I didn’t know how to react to her kind words. My only utterance during the playback was a preface and a warning before the first vocals.

“You mean you are singing the actual poem?”

“Yep, in Old English.”

“That’s so cool. It sounds like German.”

“Similar,” I said without further elaboration.

By the time the recording concluded, we were only a few miles from Pam’s home. “I love it,” was insufficient as a critique though, I pushed for something more from her.

“I can tell your band practiced it a lot. It feels crisp. I don’t know if that’s a good word for it or not, but everything was synchronized. And you played all the piano parts?”

“Yes, I did.”

“So, you play bass guitar and piano too?”

“I play acoustic guitar as well, but I play it left-handed.”

“Why?”

“That’s how I learned it. I play bass better, though.”

“You do that right-handed I assume.”

“Yes. And again, it is because of how I learned. Piano, that’s completely new for me. I can maybe play what I did on that tape and little else. I do Chopsticks and Chicago’s Color My World, but I think almost anybody can do those two songs.”

“You taught yourself how to play the piano so you could record this?”

“I took a crash course from my choir teacher who’s a classically trained pianist. We took a lot of shortcuts. She taught me how to play what I wanted to play. Maybe I could sit down at a piano, fool around and teach myself how to play other things, based on what she showed me. But… well, we’ll see about that. It’s kinda like Rich taught me to play a couple of simple things on his drum kit. And I know the lead riffs and runs for a couple of songs. But by no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself a drummer or a lead guitarist.”

“Well, your teacher did a good job with you. I took piano lessons for three years, and I doubt I could play that.”

I smiled.

“And you wrote it, too — all the music and learned the words.”

“Bart scored a lot of the percussion. Darren wrote most of the lead guitar riffs. The rhythm was based on my bass lines and the chords supporting the lead. I wrote the bass lines first. Rich came up with a lot of the percussion, which Bart and I committed to paper for him. He’s still learning to score sheet music.”

“So, there’s really music written down for this?”

“Of course. It’s a real piece. We’re having copies made of the original score to submit with the project. And I’m looking into publishing the sheet music.”

“I’m impressed.” Pam stared at me as I drove. “It’s so… unexpected. I don’t know how else to express it. This is well beyond anything I’d imagine from anyone I know. Do you understand what I mean?”

“I think so.”

“You need to make a copy of it for me. I’ll pay for it.”

“We’re making some copies. I’ll get you one.”

“How much?”

“Call it a promotional copy. In fact, you can keep this one.” Having already rewound it, I ejected it. And handed it to her to return to its protective case. “I have another one at home.”

“You’re sure?” She smiled.

“Yeah, Fleahead is making a few dozen copies. Unless you want the official sleeve Bart and I are having printed up. I suppose I can give you one of those later.”

“You’re making this look professional, too?”

“Well, I was thinking the band could use it as a demo and sell it at our gigs. Maybe we’ll cut an LP on vinyl. We may as well make some money for all our hard work. Not that I created it with the expectation of making money from it, just a grade.”

“Oh, you’ll get an A for sure. I mean — who does something like this?”

“It was a challenge that turned into an adventure.”

When we entered the outskirts of town, it was almost midnight. She gave me directions to the high school so she could collect her car. When I pulled up next to it in the parking lot, she gathered her things, and the bag containing her share of the leftovers from dinner. “I was thinking you could follow me home. That way you’ll know where I live… you know… for the next time you’re in town? So, you can come to say hello. It’s what friends do”

“So, you’re okay with your friend coming to see you?”

“Sure, I’d love that. Tonight was a lot of fun and completely unexpected.”

“I was going to follow you home anyway, just to know you got home safely.”

“I appreciate that.” She smiled. “I had a really good time. I’m glad you came to the wrestling meet.”

“Me too.”

She leaned across the center console and kissed me.

“Do you have any plans for the weekend?” I asked as she opened the door.

“Not really.”

“I was thinking we could do something, and maybe next week on Friday night? After my wrestling practice, I could come up and we could see a movie or something?”

“I’d like that, yeah.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow night if that’s okay.”

“Sure, we can decide what we’re going to do, then.” She finished pushing the door open and stepped out. I watched as she got into her car and then, as promised, I followed her home. There, I rolled down my window, preparing to wave goodbye, but paused, shifting my car to neutral as she approached. “Thank you again, for the rose and card… and the tape and dinner and…”

“And the leftovers.”

“Yes, and the leftovers,” she held up the bag as an indication. “You be careful driving home. It’s awfully late.”

“I will.”

She leaned over and our lips met anew. I remained in her driveway, waiting until she was safely inside her house. Then, I backed out onto the street, shifted gears, and pulled away.

Before leaving town, I stopped at a filling station for gas and, from a payphone, I called home to let my folks know where I was and that I’d be home late.

“How’d you wind up all the way over there?” Dad asked.

“I’ll explain it in the morning. I used all my change making this call.”

“Okay,” Dad said. “You’re not tired?”

“No, I’m fine. I’ll be there around one-thirty.”

“It’s a school night, you shouldn’t have–”

“I know. It was kind of important and it came up unexpectedly. I’ll explain it later.”

“Nothing’s wrong, right?”

“No, Dad, actually everything’s great.”

“Be careful driving.”

“I will. I love you, Dad.”

“Love you, too, son.”

The drive home figured to be long and boring, but if I dated Pam, I’d have to get used to this. I picked out a tape I hadn’t listened to for a while and put it into my deck before hitting the road. That took my mind off the tediousness of driving on a long country road in the dark.

By the time the tape ended, I was heading south on US-68. This was familiar turf, where I had always lived, so, of course, every road was a different way for me to get back home. But that night I was going the most direct and quickest route, taking back roads and shortcuts.

When I pulled into the garage at my parent’s house it was a quarter past one. I was pleased with my estimate of arrival. A quick shower, brushing my teeth, and going to bed was all I had on my mind. I had to get up in about five hours. Skipping my morning exercises in lieu of an extra hour of sleep made a lot of sense.

Mom let me sleep in a little. She figured I wasn’t going to get up and run like I usually did. She came to my room around seven and pinched my left big toe like she usually did if I wasn’t already awake.

“Are you tired?” she asked as I sat up in bed.

“A little bit.”

She sat on the foot of my bed.

“Is this the lecture about coming home late?”

“You’ve heard that one before. It didn’t seem to matter to you last night.”

“I called.”

“I know. And we’re used to you coming home at midnight after your band’s practice…”

“We didn’t have band practice last night.”

“I figured that.”

“So, you want to know how I ended up in Tipp City.”

“I told Bruce it must be the new girl you met.”

“Not too much gets past you, does it?”

“Not where my son is concerned. You haven’t been talking about Dawn or Renée, so I figured Pam was your latest love interest.”

“Well, I’m not really sure any of us broke up. We just aren’t dating anymore.”

“Maybe you understand that difference, I don’t.”

“It’s complicated.”

“So, you drove all the way to Tipp City to see this new girl?”

“Her name’s Pam, Mom. And no, I drove to North High School to see her. She was there for a wrestling meet.”

“I see.”

“I took her to Yacarino’s for dinner.”

“I saw the leftovers in the refrigerator.”

“Yeah, and then, I drove her home.”

“There are plenty of girls who live a lot closer.”

I threw back the covers and stepped out of bed. “Sometimes the girl next door isn’t interested. And out here in the middle of nowhere, what exactly is next door anyway?”

Mom stood. “Sometimes the boy next door doesn’t give the right girl much of a chance.”

I shrugged in response.

“Get ready for school, I’ll make you some breakfast.”

After glancing at the alarm clock, I noted, “I’ve only got time for cereal.”

“I think there’s enough time to make eggs, bacon, and toast.”

“Suit yourself. I was going easy on you. I figured you didn’t sleep well last night either.”

“Not until you were home.”

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ElgonWilliams Author

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